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Revolution: Pilot

"It will turn off. And it will never ever turn back on."

No more ice cream? Nooooooooooooooooo!

I thought there was definitely potential for massive coolness. To begin with, I really liked the way this pilot episode looked. End of the world stories tend to look like everyone forgot to take out the garbage for a really long time (not to mention the occasional decomposing bodies), but Revolution's post-apocalyptic decor was different and rather gorgeous -- the suburban farms, the vine-covered Ferris wheel, the artfully strewn marble columns and rugs in the lantern-lit interior of the Grand in Chicago.

And how can you not like Charlie, a young female lead who carries a crossbow and keeps her treasures in a Return of the Jedi lunchbox? I liked her cynical uncle Miles, too, although the sword fight in the lobby left me underwhelmed. (Are we going to get lots of sword fights? As cool as modern day sword fights can be -- has there been a show with modern day sword fights since Highlander? -- doing them in every episode could be problematic.) Maggie the blonde doctor with the handy poisoned whiskey to take out rapists could be cool, too. And I liked Aaron, who has already cornered the comic relief market on the show. He was also carrying the Holy Grail Flash Drive of Importance.

It appears that the Revolution Powers that Be are planning to seriously invest in their bad guys, too. There is the awesome Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), who is playing Captain Neville. A former insurance adjuster and truth detector on a horse, Neville was frightening but also showed that he could be charming, which gives me hope that he'll be a three-dimensional villain. Neville works for former Marine sergeant Monroe, a former buddy of Miles's, who apparently demands that all of his followers are branded with an M. (That's going to make it hard for us to be surprised by who the bad guys are, won't it?)

The Monroe Republic militia is big on conscription and re-education, which is bad news for Charlie's asthmatic brother, Danny. We also met Nate, a handsome young man who rescued Charlie. Yes, he's a bad guy if he's undercover for the Monroe militia, but there were "Nate might not be as bad as he seems" vibes. Or maybe they were "Nate is really hot for Charlie" vibes. We'll see.

And there's the other big plot point -- the existence of actual, secret electricity in Grace's attic, as well as whomever she was IM'ing with. I am assuming getting the Holy Grail Flashdrive to Grace's house is not all that will be needed to reset whatever got broken when the lights went out. Was she communicating with Monroe, perhaps? If not, how come Monroe had ice? (Does that mean Monroe has ice cream?)

There's a creative genius at the helm of this show (Eric Kripke, former showrunner of Supernatural), lots of set-up to build upon, and several strong actors that I liked. I have seen much, much worse pilots for shows that I ended up madly in love with. So I'm on board, and I'm going to commit to reviewing it -- for now.

Bits and pieces:

-- The opening scene, fifteen years ago, featured Ben and Rachel Matheson. Ben knew what was about to happen, but he's dead now. And if that's all we get of Elizabeth Mitchell, I'm going to be quite put out.

-- I thought the planes falling out of the sky were effective. But the stopped scene on the freeway reminded me of FlashForward, and that was something of an unpleasant omen.

-- I liked that Bugs Bunny, the trickster, was the last electronic image that Charlie saw.

-- Charlie is fascinated by cities and city lights, and collects postcards. Nice touch.

-- Churches underwater. Let's add some obvious symbolism, shall we?

-- Why crossbows and flintlocks instead of machine guns? The answer is probably obvious and I'm missing it.

-- Aaron was wearing an AC/DC tee shirt. Somebody had to.

I tend not to rate pilots because you can't compare them to what's coming, but I thought that, even though it didn't blow me away, this was a solid pilot. What did you all think? Lines are open,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. Hey Billie,
    I'm so glad you got to watch it too. I watched the Revolution pilot this morning and I rushed to review it because I absolutely LOVED it. I rarely like pilots this much but I thought this dystopia with its lush greenery was a wonderful change of pace. Moreover, I liked a lot of the cast and was immediately intrigued by the various mysteries that were put forth.

    I think my main issue though was the Nate character. His potential forbidden love with Charlie looks like it's going to give me the biggest migraine on earth. I really hope Miles is more of the show's protagonist than clumsy Charlie.

    But anyways, I really loved this pilot and it was even nicer getting to read your review so soon after. I'm really looking forward to discussing this on a weekly basis and I do hope it manages to keep us hooked. There's definitely potential for a Flashforward style disaster though (and I also remembered that with the car scene so props for catching that)

    Here's hoping for a successful run.

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  3. "Captain! Ye canna change the laws o' physics!"

    The show could end up sucking big time. But if the characters work and the story is good, I doubt that that one thing will sink it.

    We shall see.

  4. Billie,

    This show has structurally so many things common with Supernatural
    1. Both shows start of with a traumatic incident, although the incident here is far less traumatic.
    2. There is a long time gap where people adjust to new circumstances, only to be yanked into a new adventure by some incident (Here, death of Charlie's father. In SUpernatural, Dean getting Sam from college)
    3. Both shows are about people looking for family while at the same time forming familial bonds with thier travel companions.

    The main difference is, we will be seeing what Captain Neville and co. will be doing at the same time as our heroes. Its like having a season of Supernatural where we see what John Winchester and yellow eyes are doing along with the brother's Winchester

    To be perfectly honest though, I'm watching this as an Eric Kripke series rather than as a JJ Abrams show. Because Eric Kripke has shown that he can juggle complex mythologies while focusing on interpersonal dynamics with the heroes while providing clear coherent answers consistently for 5+ seasons. JJ Abrams shows have cool moments but they also melt down at the Macro level, when the mythology has to provide clear satisfying answers (Think island as glowing cave on Lost or all the various red herrings on Alias)

    And by the way zob, fiction is filled with tons of stories where there are EMP devices which stop electronic devices but not kill people/animals/etc. Whatever, the final explanation may be, it may not be as wonky as you think.

  5. Good point about Supernatural and Kripke, CoolSid. Kripke is the biggest reason I'm interested in this show. And I have to say I agree with you about J.J., although Fringe has turned out to be an exception.

  6. Billie,

    Even though I like Fringe, I do think they have made a mess of the overall mythology of Fringe. For instance, there are any number of inconsistencies between Fringe Season 1 and Season 3. And I sometimes feel that the only reason they did the Season 4 arc with disappearing Peter simply because they did not know how to deal with Peter and Fauxlivia's son Henry. Like imagine how much more powerful the moment would have been in Season 4 when they have to destroy the bridge and Peter had to leave behind his son....

  7. I can't see how they will manage to justify the show's premise. As zob said, it wouldn't work if electricity just disappeared. And EMPs would maybe disable working devices but who would stop you from building new ones that would work fine?

    On the other hand, I can see the show continuing and being good even. It won't be the first SF show inconsistent with reality. I mean, every series which has FTL would be in the same category. These are not really SF shows but that's ok. Of course, I could be wrong and they will provide a genious explanation but I don't have high hopes.

  8. I CAN live without ice cream. NOT without an high speed internet connection.

    The trailer looked interesting, but post apocalyptic shows are not my cup of tea. And, oh my, they hated it on imbd.com.

    BUT ! because of your review, I'm willing...to give a try. We'll see after that. I'll let you know.

    They had also potential with, ah I hate that, what's the name, you know, darn it, the Jurassic Park show that lasted one season. Watched it, didn't sparked a thing. Oh heck.

  9. According to TVLine's coverage of a recent panel (PaleyFest, maybe?), the producers cleared the science with physicists.

    Using arrows and swords rather than anything requiring bullets makes sense to me. Bullets are harder to make than arrows.

    I enjoyed this and will definitely keep watching it, but I'm having a hard time connecting with the characters. No one stood out to me as being a fascinating, charismatic actor or a fun, interesting character. Although watching Elizabeth Mitchell cry, "Ben!" did freak me out.

  10. Personally, I like the idea of flintlocks being used because it is a black gunpowder weapon. Black gunpowder is much easier to create, you don't need to machine casings for bullets. White gunpowder, which is what is used today, is harder to manufacture. Second the materials for making the weapons are easier to gather, and easier to create without machinery. Case in point, the flintlock was used for over two centuries for good reason.

    So I'm going to withhold judgement until I get to see more of the mystery.

  11. I haven't watched the pilot for this one yet, and after the blah ads, I'm not really sure I want to. The discussion here certainly points to the classic "characters v. mythology" problem. If the characters and the community are compelling, then the hinky science and "mythology" problems quickly recede into the background. If the characters are bland, then all the plot improbabilities dominate.

    Based on everyone's comments, I've got concerns about the characters and I find myself reluctant to give the show a chance. Especially when I don't have as much watching time these days. I guess after getting spoiled with a few sci-fi classics that nailed the compelling characters issue right from the start, it can be hard to give time to a show that doesn't immediately grab you. I hate being the kind of audience member that doesn't give something time to grow, but it is a tough market out there. I'll look forward to some future commentary to see if the general consensus is "this one is getting better" or "not worth the time."

  12. I think they missed a big opportunity by not making the show more steampunk. After all steam engines do not need any electricity. Think of all the trains and steamboats and if we want to go more into sci-fi: flying ships and ether powered computers. Sure it would be less post-apocalyptic but still more fascinating to watch imho.

    I am sticking with the show since, correct me if i'm wrong, this is the single new genre show on tv this season.

  13. Hey, Patryk: As far as fantasy/sci-fi go, this fall we're also getting 666 Park Avenue and Arrow. And possibly Last Resort -- it sounds like a Lost wannabe, so it might be a genre show. And of course, Beauty and the Beast, which I'm planning to completely ignore.

  14. Later in the season, SyFy will be bringing us Defiance (April), which features several of our genre favorites. And rumors are swirling that a US network has picked up Continuum, possibly to begin airing in January then rolling right into S2. (Assuming I understand those rumors correctly.)

    I'm not sure about Last Resort being sci fi/fantasy. I was under the impression it was more of an action thriller based on a nuclear sub that refuses an order to fire its missiles, then goes rogue and sets up their own fiefdom on a tropical island. I guess you could maybe consider that a "fantasy" scenario. :)

  15. Jut watched the pilot and loved it !
    "Why crossbows and flintlocks instead of machine guns?"

    At one point in the pilot captain Neville states that it is a hangable offence to have a gun.. Along with what Josie said about bullets being harder to make than arrows.. IM guessing thats why there is barely any guns..

  16. I just watched it.

    I'm lukewarm about it. On the plus side : not a wasted second; powerful opening; G. Esposito has a strong presence. But I'm suddenly having a vibe of Hunger Games.

    But, as I said previously, not crazy about post apocalyptic shows. But (one of) the guy(s) behind it gave us Alias, Fringe and the best TV show ever produced (Lost if you haven't read me) (ya, EVER).

    For the moment being, I will not follow it, but perhaps....it will become a new cult TV series. Who knows ? I'll keep reading about it and see what happens.

  17. Glad you're reviewing it! I for one enjoyed it and am go to stick with it unless they royally screw things up. But yeah, I too am hoping we get more Uncle Miles than Charlie (but that could just be my age and gender showing... he's hot!) ;o)

  18. Although normally I avoid shows of this nature like the plague, I really enjoyed this pilot. Instead of a post-apocalyptic waste land, I loved how verdant and, frankly, beautiful everything was.

    So many pilots spend far too long on exposition and introducing us to the characters. This one did not, which I really liked. Instead, we were launched pretty quickly into the story and it was told at a good pace. We were expected to keep up -- always a good thing.

    My one complaint is the actress playing Charlie. Her acting was strained and false a bit too often for me. I'm hoping she picks up some skill as the show moves forward.

    The Holy Grail Flash Drive of Importance? I laughed out loud.

    Finally, I am less fussed about the ice cream than the fact that Miles left some of that single malt sitting on the counter. I would have found room in my backpack for that!

  19. Since I always listen to Josie Kafka and since I am supposed to be active in the physics field, I would say that the science is never the problem. There is a reason not to use actual bullets since they are harder to make. There is a reason not to use cars since the whole infrastructure would have been destroyed and therefore no black gold of any kind. You don't need to even make all the electricity go away. Just don't allow anything over say... 0.01 Amps (what the body uses).

    The problem for me is that I didn't believe the characters. They were just to shallow, too simplistic and too predictable. But that, same as supernatural, can change.

    For me, it seems that this show deserves a chance, mainly due to the history of the people behind it.

    Sorry for the large post. :)

  20. WhyMe, you never need to apologize for a post that begins with the words "Since I always listen to Josie Kafka..."


    (You just made my day.)

  21. Dear(est) Josie :

    a) hey ! I'm a fan !
    b) hey ! you're awesome !
    c) hey ! every time I see a laptop, I think about you !
    d) hey ! ditto with ANY polar bear.

    So, therefore, here is your week and the rest of September !


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